The leaders of India, the United States, Saudi Arabia and a few other nations are in talks on a possible infrastructure deal involving railroads and ports, Reuters reported citing sources. According to sources privy to the development, the deal could reconfigure trade between the Gulf and South Asia, linking Middle Eastern countries by railways and connecting to India by port.
There may or may not be a tangible outcome from the discussions, which have also involved the United Arab Emirates and Europe, in time for an announcement on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 (G20) leaders meeting, sources said. They further said that the negotiations have been going on for months but are still in progress.
The idea of first discussed during I2U2 meet
According to reports, the concept for this new endeavour was discussed during meetings held over the previous 18 months in another forum called I2U2, which comprises the US, Israel, the UAE, and India. The group was founded in late 2021 to talk about important Middle Eastern infrastructure initiatives and to act as a check on China’s expanding regional influence. Israel raised the idea of connecting the region through railways during the I2U2 meetings over the last year. Part of the idea was to use India’s expertise on such big infrastructure projects, sources said.
US President Joe Biden is on his way to the G20 conference in New Delhi, where he is set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and may also have talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Biden’s plan to counter China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure push
The plans for a sweeping, multi-national ports and rail deal would come at a critical time. To counter China’s Belt and Road global infrastructure push, Biden is pitching Washington as an alternative partner for an investor in developing countries at the G20, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
It also comes as the Biden administration seeks a broader diplomatic deal in the Middle East that would have Saudi Arabia recognize Israel. The negotiations over a multi-country infrastructure deal were first reported by Axios.
(With inputs from Reuters)